Gators back to work without Walsh

Matt Walsh is doubtful for Florida's SEC opener Saturday vs. Arkansas.

FSU's Alexander Johnson dunks on UF's Adrian Moss on Sunday.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 12:28 a.m.
It drove him nuts. Relegated to the role of a cheerleader and unofficial assistant coach, all Florida junior guard Matt Walsh could do was watch as his teammates struggled in Sunday's 82-69 loss at Florida State.
His left ankle, secured in a boot cast, didn't hurt as much as it did Monday. But his feelings did.
"It was torture," Walsh said. "Especially because we were having a tough game. I just felt bad for the guys because I wasn't able to contribute."
Walsh could be in for more torture, depending on how quickly his high ankle sprain heals. As of now, Walsh is doubtful for Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener against 12-1 Arkansas.
Florida's leading scorer at 16.0 points per game, Walsh also has emerged as a team leader during a shaky non-conference season that has netted just one quality win against Providence. Florida's current RPI is 134, the result of an 8-3 record against a schedule strength that ranks 227 out of 330 Division I teams.
In short, Florida needs Walsh back soon. "We're doing everything we can," Walsh said. "I'm working with the training staff, trying to get ready. And I'm confident I'll be ready. My goal is to be ready so I can get a few days of practice in this week and then try to play Saturday. I don't know how my ankle is going to react, but as long as it keeps getting better I'll be able to play."
Florida coach Billy Donovan was more cautious in his assessment.
"We're going to prepare for the game Saturday like he's not going to be there," Donovan said. "I know Matt's mindset will be 'I'm playing'. He had the same mindset on Thursday after he sprained an ankle and he had the same mindset on Friday before the FSU game.
"I think that will be a decision the doctors will make in terms of are we putting him at risk in terms of setting him back even further or do we need to let more time pass. We'll probably have a better idea by Thursday."
Walsh last missed a game at any level in high school, when he was whistled for two technicals in his senior year at Germantown (Pa.) Academy and forced to sit out the following game. His last serious injury, ironically, was a sprained ankle in the summer after his junior year of high school, though he was slowed at the end of last season with a torn callus under his right foot.
High ankle sprains can be tricky. Doctors originally diagnosed the recovery time from a range of three days to two weeks.
"I like to play every game," Walsh said. "I would have done anything to be able to play at Florida State, but the important thing now is trying to get back for the SEC. It's tough. I've never been through this, missing games with injury."
Some of the swelling in the ankle subsided Monday. Walsh initially feared he broke the ankle when he first suffered the injury because the swelling was so pronounced.
Walsh was trying to break the press, dribbling full speed when he stepped on Lee Humphrey's foot.
"I was happy to hear it was just a sprain because I was pretty freaked out when it happened," Walsh said.
"The trainers have done a great job really reducing and taking all the swelling out of it," Donovan said. "He's still swollen, but not like he was two or three days ago. The problem is he's got a lot more mobility and range of motion in his foot, but he also has a lot more pain moving his foot around now."
If Walsh can't go, Humphrey, a sophomore, will likely make his second start of the season. Humphrey scored a career-high 15 points against Florida State.
"If he's not back, we'll definitely have to have other guys step up and make some plays," Humphrey said. "So it was probably good that we got to play against Florida State and that will prepare us if he can't play. But hopefully, he'll be back."
The burden also will fall on Florida's five freshmen, who played more minutes Sunday with Walsh down. Joakim Noah got 16 minutes off the bench and Taurean Green played 24 minutes.
The timing of the injury was bad for Walsh personally, but good for Florida as a team. The Gators open the SEC season with a bye, giving the team a full five days to prepare for Arkansas. Walsh, however, was coming off consecutive strong shooting games against Eastern Kentucky (23 points) and Sam Houston State (21 points).
"With the game on Saturday there is a chance, maybe a possibility that Matt will play," Donovan said. "I think right now as a basketball team we've got to focus on getting better in some areas without him on the floor."
Maybe Walsh was tempting fate. The day before the injury, Walsh and trainer Dave Werner were talking about his ankles and how he's never sustained a serious injury with them since arriving at Florida.
"I may have jinxed myself a little bit, there," Walsh said.
  • FREE THROWS: Freshman Corey Brewer (5 of 9 from the line against Florida State) said he planned to work with assistant coach Anthony Grant this week on his free throw shooting, "He's telling me I need to slow down a bit," Brewer said. "I'm rushing things." ... Freshman Al Horford offered a blunt assessment on Florida being out-rebounded 44-20 against Florida State, "We didn't work hard enough," Horford said. "We were just too lazy."
    You can reach Kevin Brockway by e-mail at or by calling 374-5054.
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